Tuesday, March 31, 2009


How important are settings to you? Do you revisit one location over and over again?

I do. I always write about California, particularly southern California. I write in a genre that doesn't often have stories which take place in the Golden State. I think it adds uniqueness to my writing. I like the myriad of environments offered in the states and the different cultures which make their presence known. But the biggest reason I write about California is simply because I live here.

Research is easier. I do quite a bit of research, I've got Google maps going while I'm writing so I can make sure the path my character is taking jives with the city streets. And I research neighborhoods and houses to get a better feel for my specific scenes. But I don't need to research the basic essence of my setting. I know what kind of people I'm going to see on the street because I see them everyday. I know what the weather is going to be, I know when traffic is going to be an issue,and I how long its going to take to get from one place to the next. I try to use my own observations and experiences to add a depth to my setting which will pull my reader in further.

I admire other authors who do this. Stephen King's Maine is very visible to me. Charlaine Harris brings me to the South with her writing. I can peg where Dean Koontz has set his stories. There are a lot of other authors I could name who just do wonders with settings. I can feel that they have been there. So it kills me when the feeling doesn't come through. I read one series where the story took place in a fictional California coastal town. But the author was off. I don't mind mythical and created, I create my own suburbs. I'm not looking for complete accuracy, but I am looking for the little things a writer should know about a setting which would carry the reader away. There was nothing really out there is the books which screamed inaccuracy, but the writer missed the nuances. It was like they'd watched a t.v. show and took their cues from there.

I do think there are authors who do write about places they've never been and can do it well. Historical authors are particularly talented in this arena, but they research like crazy. They don't assume. And their setting is important to their stories so they do spend a lot of time making it as right as they can.

For me, I'm not confident enough to venture into a contemporary setting I've never been to. I could make it technically correct, but I couldn't capture the essence or the rhythm of an area enough to make it feel real to my readers.

What about you? Are you sensitive to settings? Are you brave enough to place your stories in places you've never been before?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Silly Writer, Weekends are for Kids!

I think we writers are a selfish lot by nature. We love to hoard our time like misers with their gold. We have worlds in our heads looking for an escape. But time always seems like a commodity none of us have. I will be the first to admit to resenting those activities which drag me away from my keyboard.

However, none of us live in a vacuum and if we did, our writing would suffer. We gain from the outer experiences we face everyday. I honestly believe the more external activities we participate the more texture our writing acquires. Anyway, even if it didn't, we are all members of some extended family whether by blood or by interest and those ties have obligations. So it is foolish to make lofty goals when those obilgations are front and center.

I wanted to reach 100 pages this weekend. I thought it would be simple. I got a half a page done. I knew better. But my inclination is to beat myself up for the work I didn't get done knowing the weekend was going to burst with other things. I tend to set myself up. Not sure why. Maybe its a girl thing. But now, however, I'm appreiciating the weekend instead. Yeah, they're busy, but I really enjoyed watching my girls. Sorry, only tee ball pictures. I kept book (scorekeeping) for Diva's game and couldn't take pictures. A pity to because she laid down a bunt which turned into a double. She ended up scoring later in the inning with a beautiful slide.

Yeah, I didn't get my pages done, but I'm guessing the day at the ballfield will help my writing in the end. Our voices are created by our experiences. The emotions we experience in such activities leech into our writing. Euphoria and despair are played out in the microcosms of our daily existence, giving us writers the tools for translating it onto the page. Instead of seeing these weekends as a hindrance to my writing, I am working on seeing them as opportunities to deepen my skill.

Do non-writing activities inspire you in your writing? How?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Losing its Luster?

The Golden Hearts finalists were announced yesterday. Usually I'm aware of that date long before it actually happens but this year, it snuck up on me. The only reason I knew was because I saw some RITA announcements. If the RITA finalists were announced then the GH's had to have been as well.

Usually the Internet is abuzz with GH news but I had a hard time finding any info beyond the RWA site. I didn't recognize a single name on the finalists' list, in years past I recognize a couple of names. It could be because I'm out of the loop on such things. I've dropped most of my RWA loops. But I didn't know anyone who entered. I judged this year and frankly I didn't expect to see any of the entries I read to be finalists. Not even close.

I entered the contest once. I didn't final but I made the top quarter. Unlike chapter contests, there is no feedback so the only reason you are entering is to win. That was enough for me. Too expensive and at that point I was well into submissions.

Did any of you hear a lot of buzz about the GH's? Did anyone enter? Judge? Is the contest losing its luster or am I totally out of touch? How about the RITA's? I think I've only read one book out of all of them.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


How much pre-writing do you do? This is mine. That's my outline, my plot points, my story boards, my character sketches, etc. That's it. In other words, I don't do much. I've tried. I've downloaded awesome programs which had great tools for writing. I'd open them, fill them out and then never look at them again. I've sat down and outlined a novel, mapped out what was going to happen. I lost it before I got to the third chapter.

I admire people who can do pre-writing. It must ease the stress of writing. I would love to know what's going to happen next, but I'm always in the dark. I plan about one chapter ahead. I'm not a good chess player or pool player either. I can only focus on one move at a time. I stress about it. I'm nearing the end of a chapter right now and I'm not happy about where it is going to leave me. However, I've been through this before (many times) and I know it will all come together in the end.

I've always written this way and I don't think I'll change. Its going to be tough if I ever sell and then I'm required to sell on proposal. I'm sure I'll figure something out.

So, how much pre-writing do you do? If you do a lot of pre-writing, does it come naturally to you or did you have to train yourself?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spring is in the Air

Spring is the time for so many things. Baseball for one. As you can see, my two girls are ready. Thing kind of looks like she is ready to attack something and eat it raw. Anyway, the season heralds all types of activites. In my area baseball and soccer are in full swing. People are busy planting their gardens. Joggers are multiplying in the morning while the evenings are reserved the walkers. We have birds everywhere, they nest in the clay tiles of my house. Its just a big explosion of life, a new chance at whatever we endeavor.

I think it also shakes us from out winter cobwebs and we start seeing a bit more clearly. Like how dirty the inside of our drawers and cabinets are inside a sunny kitchen. Or how chaotic our pantry has gotten. The fridge and freezer are crying out for attention. Yep, I need to do some spring cleaning. But trying to find the time isn't easy. And it isn't fun. Besides, I have this brilliant piece of genre fiction which is demanding release.

In the end, I feel better after I've gotten a big project done. I like the immediate satisfaction of seeing something done. The results scream spring to me. My kids have spring break in April this year so I think I'm going to press them into service. It should get things done so much faster.

Do you spring clean?

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I've noticed something very odd in the last year. My taste in music has been changing. I've always had eclectic taste. Funny, most writers I know do. You look on their iPods or mp3 players and they have a mix which runs from rap and hip hop to Bach and Beethoven. I've gone through phases before; ska in the 80's, hard rock in the early 90's and Radio Disney in the 2000's (didn't have much choice there). But lately I've immersed myself in indie alternative. Big time. I'm not sure why. I think some of it has to do with the Internet.

Radio in Los Angeles sucks. For being such a huge entertainment factory with a dearth of talent, the radio is horrible. As soon as I find a station I enjoy, it disappears. And even if there were decent stations, I live too close to the mountains to get great reception. So I've turned to the Internet. I was listening to Indie 103.1 but then I discovered Pandora. I love this site better than any of the others. I've listened to quite a few. But too many of them have bad streams or they repeat the same songs over and over.

Do you go through phases with your music? What prompts a change?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Milestone Writer

When we write we look for milestones in our story. Maybe its when the hero and heroine first meet. Or the hero is called to his "journey" and realizes what must be done. Perhaps its the moment when the heroine is confronted by the villain. Maybe its when the hero and heroine discover their mutual love. Whatever, you get the picture.

I'm no different, but my milestones are a little different. My first milestone is when I start my book. It is the best thing I've ever written. I just know it is going to hit the bestseller list and HBO is going to turn it into a series. The next is wow, this is a huge pile of camel dung. No one in their right mind is going to read this waste of hard drive space. Then its the "I'm bored" phase. The bridge scenes kill me. And they are only a couple of pages long, but they take forever to write. But they are necessary. And the whole time the voice in my head is whining. I move onto, okay, this isn't so bad and then back to blech. Of course there is the deer-in-the-headlights spot. What is going to happen next? The voice in my head starts screaming "WHAT NOW? YOU DON'T KNOW? BOY, ARE YOU UP A CREEK." By then I'm at the last third of the novel and all those mile stones are behind me.

Well, not really, they just repeat over and over until the book is done. I've realized it isn't the writing I find difficult, its the emotional toll it takes. Its exhausting.

What kind of milestones do you go through in your writing?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Links I Find Interesting for Writers

I had another post started that I didn't finish yesterday. However, I was up until 4 a.m. with Thing. She has been sick and last night had a horrible fever. She kept me up most the night until the ibuprofen finally kicked in and she went to sleep. She's fine now but I'm pretty punchy, so I thought I would instead toss out some links I find useful.

I'm addicted to an application called StumbleUpon. I can spend way too much time trolling the web for websites through this tool. I have found some great links which I would never have found in a million years. So I thought I'd share them.

Does one of your characters use a wise old proverb to dissuade another character? This site gives a proverb and it's exact opposite. Your character will never be at a loss for words again.

Have a character stuck out in the country and she needs to take care of chickens and the only chickens you've taken care of are the ones which are ready to go in the oven? KountryLife has the answer.

Tired of "said?" Enough said.

Looking for a word, something different? Here's a list of "beautiful" words in the English language. Or you need a descriptive word but don't feel like getting up and getting the thesaurus? Here's a brief list which might help you get going.

Is your character too perfect? Do you need ideas to make them...flawed? This site is actually designed for RPG players but I thought it was interesting for writers too.

I have more, but hubby has just arrived with fresh bagels. Hope you find something interesting here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Now I Remember....

...why I'm a writer.

Epiphanies are far and few between. As any serious writer knows, writing is hard work. It is more mental sweat than anything else. Writing takes focus and demands sacrifices both on the home and creative fronts. Our books are filled with dead ends and useless characters. We unwittingly write laughable dialogue only to go back and edit, scratching our heads and wondering what the hell we were thinking. There are some days we stare at the computer screen, lucky if we are able to punch out four or five words. Some writers are more disciplined and manage to get the word count out, knowing in the end most of those words will end up deleted. Often we open up those files, read through our writing and think there is no way we can get this mess cleaned up. Or we read and think how good it is but worry we are the only ones who think so.

Lets face it, there are many times when we can't remember why we are writers. Sometimes there is little joy in the process. We slog through hoping to catch the fire. Too often we fear the passion we once felt is gone for good. I can honestly say I have felt this way more often than not in the last ten years of writing. Not that I haven't gotten things done. I've produced some good stuff even though it has been a struggle. But in the back the back of my mind I am battling the demons of self-doubt. I constantly question if what I'm writing will sell. I am not writing for the pleasure it brings me. And I miss that feeling.

But last week the most amazing thing happened. A story popped in my head and I started writing. It was so exciting. The flow of words was (and is) unstoppable. And the best part is I'm not worried about whether it will sell. I don't care right now, I only care about the story. My happiness is wrapped up in the feeling of writing. I love it again. I find myself constantly thinking about the book but not with trepidation. I'm only concerned with how I feel about it. I'm in love with the process once more. I'm enchanted with the words I'm writing. I wish I could bottle this feeling. I could sell it on ebay and make a mint.

Anyway, I guess the moral of the story is to keep plugging along. Have faith that the writer in you will emerge again and remind you why you do what you do.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Book Buying

As you may have heard, we are suffering from a difficult economy. I think the newspapers are drooling over the constant bad news.

Does it change the way you spend money in the bookstore? Are you buying less books or buying them second-hand? Are you being more selective?

I don't think I've changed in my book buying. In fact, I imagine this summer will see an increase in my purchases. I'm not going on vacation. I don't go to the movies. Since I won't be spending money on trips and movie tickets (which, in my area, are at $11 a ticket) I feel I can pick up a couple of extra books on my trips to B&N. As a rule, I do not buy used books unless it is out of print. And I do prefer paperbacks although I do buy some of my autobuys in hardcover. So that really hasn't changed either.

I am scratching my head about the Kindle 2 which seems to be based on people buying lots of books. And the device seems to be selling. People have to buy content for them, so does Amazon know a secret? Maybe reading never goes out of style.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

My New Anthem

I had another post but since its Saturday, I thought I'd go for something light. I'm an avowed ShamWow fan. I think it's just the bizarre informercial that has mesmerized me into a fan. My son, ever so helpful, found this video for me. Thought it was a hoot.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Well...I like it

I emailed my complete and edited MS off to my agent yesterday. I'm a little nervous. I'd be a lot more nervous if I didn't have so many other things to worry about. I've got a room full of Girl Scout cookies and a mile long to-do list for my team mom duties for my daughter's baseball team. Also, I have spring coming up and I'd really like to do some spring cleaning. Right now I don't have the time to be chewing my fingernails in concern. I've done this before, always with disappointing results in the end and the world continues to spin as it has before, so getting too worked up is a waste of energy. I'm not trying to be a pessimist, but anyone who has had any experience with submitting knows the score. It's a longshot to get published and I've been through all of this before. In a way, I have no where to go but up.

Anyway, as I was editing, I realized how much I liked my MS. I thought it read well and it kept me turning the pages. It's clearly a winner...if I were running things. But that's how we writers feel about our work, or should. And that's the rub. How accurate is our own perception? When we submit to an agent, editor or contest, we think we've nailed it. But having just judged some Golden Heart entries, I realize how far off we can be. Whenever I get my packet of GH entries, I'm usually pretty excited. These are the best of the best, books that have either been in contests or have already started the submission contest. Back when I entered, it was stressed that this was a contest for mss ready for publication. Since all you get is a score with no feedback, its pointless to enter unless you think it stands a shot of winning. In this batch, I had two that met the criteria. The other three were no where close. Which made me wonder why they thought they were ready.

As a writer, how reliable do you think your perception is? Do you trust your judgement or do you look to others to give you an objective opinion? I had to wonder with these entries. Obviously they thought they were ready. So I had to wonder how off I was in my own opinion about my work. Can we be the best judge or our own writing?